Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton officially part of the Mass. General team
Special to The Recorder/Keving Gutting
Cooley Dickinson Hospital volunteer Lisa McCune Leduc, right, holds up a T-shirt for employee Carol Carlson, center, to size following an event in the hospital cafeteria Monday announcing the hospital's affiliation with Massachusetts General.
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Cooley Dickinson Hospital President and CEO Craig Melin, left, and Massachusetts General President Peter Slavin, via a telemedicine video link, announce the affiliation of the two hospitals during a mid-day event in the CDH cafeteria Monday. Green T-shirts with the new affiliation logo were then given out to all CDH employees.
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Robin Kline, director of volunteer services at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, helps hand out T-shirts with a new logo marking the new affiliation between Massachusetts General and CDH hospitals during a mid-day event in the CDH cafeteria Monday.
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NORTHAMPTON — Cooley Dickinson Hospital officially joined Massachusetts General Hospital on Monday, fulfilling a move that top officials have touted as critical for the long-term health of both the hospital and thousands of patients throughout the Valley.
“We’re excited to be joining the No. 1 hospital in the nation,” said Craig Melin, president and chief executive officer at Cooley Dickinson.
Melin made the announcement with Mass General President Dr. Peter L. Slavin, who joined the festivities from Boston via video link, at a gathering of dozens of staff in the hospital’s cafeteria.
Slavin said the affiliation agreement was registered Monday with the Secretary of State William Galvin’s office after more than two years of negotiation.
“On behalf of the management, the board, the physicians and the entire staff here at MGH, I just want to extend a warm welcome to our family and let you know how excited we are to have you be a part of it,” Slavin said from his office through the use of high-definition video telemedicine technology.
The technology is already in place at Cooley Dickinson for telestroke and teleneurology consultations with Mass General physicians.
“We were honored to be selected as your choice and we will make good on all of the commitments that we made,” Slavin said.
Melin said the affiliation will enable Cooley Dickinson to increase the “breadth and depth” of service to the community. Now that the deal is official, the hospital has permission to have direct discussions about how Cooley Dickinson can bring more Mass General programming to the community, similar to an existing arrangements between the two institutions’ cancer centers.
Cooley Dickinson and Mass General have collaborated clinically since 2009 for cancer-care services. The first clinical priority will be to further develop this relationship and build a comprehensive cancer center at Cooley Dickinson.
“Now the question is, what else do we bring to this community?” Melin said.
The first major announcement will come in the next two weeks when the hospital begins using new 3-D mammography technology that will enhance early breast cancer detection capabilities. The equipment, the first in western Massachusetts, was researched and developed at Mass General.
“We’re excited about what it is that we can bring to this community, rather than have this community have to go elsewhere,” Melin said.
The deal will also help Cooley Dickinson reduce its costs, particularly when it comes to borrowing and investing at the more favorable Mass General rates. Melin said the hospital is already in the process of refinancing its bonds, a move that will ensure long-term stability and allow the hospital to use its resources to take care of patients and staff.
Finally, the affiliation will help Cooley Dickinson prepare for population-based care, a new health care model sweeping the country. Mass General has made major investments in population health management, including restructuring its primary care practices into a patient-centered home model and paying special attention to patients at high risk for chronic disease or multiple illnesses.
Melin said Mass General has operated a successful pilot program that improved both the health of a group of Medicare patients and reduced costs. There were 13 other pilot programs and only Mass General had measurable success, Melin said.
“So we’re now learning from them about how to do care management to help the population be healthier,” he said.
Under the agreement, Cooley Dickinson keeps its name and remains an independently licensed health care provider, although it will begin to use a new logo denoting Cooley Dickinson’s status as an affiliate of Mass General.
As part of the announcement, Slavin and Melin donned new green Cooley Dickinson T-shirts and announced that all hospital staff would receive a T-shirt and be asked to wear it July 12. The shirt’s message: “Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Massachusetts General Hospital Affiliate.”
The Northampton hospital also keeps its nonprofit and tax-exempt status, and maintains its own board of trustees, medical staff and fundraising activities. Slavin and three other Mass General representatives will join the hospital’s board.
Cooley Dickinson’s quest for a merger partner began more than four years ago and included seven suitors. Hospital trustees decided about a year ago that Mass General was the best fit for the Northampton hospital, ahead of Baystate Health in Springfield.
Mass General was ranked the top hospital in the country last year by U.S. News and World Report, an announcement that came a day after Cooley Dickinson chose to merge with the hospital and its parent, Partners HealthCare System.